It’s too bad Moe Sucks wasn’t active during Concrete Revolutio’s first season. Most of the episodes have plenty of fascinating topics and character development to dissect and examine at a closer level. Unfortunately, I can’t do that here. A post like that would easily end up being over 10,000 words alone. Hell, this post is long enough as it is, and I feel I’ve only scratched the surface. For instance, as much as I want to, I won’t be examining the show’s unique aesthetics here. I have, however, touched upon on a few topics that really stood out to me as I watched not only the first season, but the first six episodes of the second season as well. Oh, just a fair warning: I quote Zizek quite a bit in this post.
Echos of Anpo
The student protests throughout Concrete Revolutio really strike a chord with me, because they remind me of the Anpo protests that started during the 50s, and led up to that fateful rally on June 15, 1960. You can see the parallels between the US-Japanese relationship in the Concrete Revolutio universe and the one in our universe. In both cases, youth activism leads the charge, and in both cases, it is a rallying cry for peace, for democracy, for the end of US occupation, and more. Of course, student protests would continue throughout the 60s, but June 15, 1960, is particularly meaningful in my eyes:
“After the success of the June 4th strike, campaigners were enthusiastic and excited for the strike and rally on June 15th. They were, however, wary of violence on the part of counter-protesters, and feared for the safety of participants in the rally. As protesters marched towards the Diet, campaigners started a marching song, chanting “citizens all, be brave”, to keep people’s fear allayed. As they approached the Diet, though, physical violence broke out as counter-protesters launched themselves into the melee. Campaigners, who had been strictly instructed to resist from responding violently, continued the march and turned to the police to control the situation. Police began to arrest protesters and counter-protesters, using billy clubs to put choke holds on those being arrested. The scene turned tragic when a young woman protester was strangled by a club and died.” — Japanese protest security treaty with US and unseat Prime Minister, 1959-1960
What I find particularly harrowing is the start of the second season of Concrete Revolutio. Superhumans are no longer protected, and Kikko laments, “I don’t want to fight the students anymore.” After all, this is hardly the Bureau’s original mission. She joined them believing that she would be protecting other superhumans. Nevertheless, Emi replies, “But it’s true that [the students are] getting radical. They’re losing public support.” Again, this is drawn directly from history itself:
“The events of June 15 also caused a shift in the attitude of the media and public opinion. The violence of the police had until this time kept the media and the public on the side of the students and protestors in gereral, but the storming of the Diet compound provoked disapproval. In an unprecedented action, all seven of Japan’s major daily newspapers published a joint editorial on June 16 that condemned the use of violence. Though the editorial laid ultimate responsibility for the situation with the government itself, it was clear to everyone that the students were the primary target of criticism, and the conservatives welcomed the editorial as vindication.” — Tokyo 1960: Days of Rage & Grief
I suppose the question is why now? What is the importance of reliving the Anpo protests? Perhaps it is due to the current resurgence of student protests in Japan. With politicians drumming up fears of potential foreign threats, it seems more important than ever for Japan to remember its painful past. But this time, with the addition of Teito Advertisement as a yet another force to contend with, Concrete Revolutio’s writer is quite cognizant of the powerful and dangerous role played by not just the media, but the demands of capitalism, i.e. the commodification of superheroes.
The Noble Fable
Over and over again, the truth is distorted in order to advance certain agendas or to perhaps preserve social order. Many reckon that beasts are no different from perhaps a natural disaster. We can simplify it even further: beasts are just extremely large, wild animals. In other words, beasts are not inherently evil. Nevertheless, the Bureau conspire to make the beasts go wild, thereby forcing superhumans to kill them. In doing so, “society [thinks] superhumans are justice.” Likewise, what is the EDF’s purpose? Their mission is to supposedly combat evil aliens. It’s not hard, of course, to draw parallels between the nebulous threat of aliens to that of communism during the Cold War. In any case, what you see with both the beasts and the alien threat is the unification of fear. In our everyday lives, we have very many fears to worry about:
“We fear people raping our children. We fear natural disasters, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, we fear corrupt politicians. We fear big companies which can basically do with us whatever they want.” — The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology
The last two examples are particularly relevant to the Concrete Revolutio universe. Reality becomes much simpler if you can unite these fears into one. Not only that, when threats seem large enough, they also misdirect our attention. We need not look far in real life to see how fear of the Other, whether they are illegal immigrants or radical Islamic terrorists, can dominate media coverage and thus our attention. How often do we talk about the increasing wealth gap between the rich and the poor? How often do we talk about the very real threat of global warming? The simple answer is “not enough.” Over and over again, terrorism and the encroachment of foreigners continue to dominate the headlines. According to politicians and pundits, these two threats appear to be the ultimate cause to all our problems.
The lies and distortions, however, go even further. Jiro eventually learns that Rainbow Knight had been framed. He did not kidnap children in order to demand a ransom. Instead, he was trying to protect these kids from cruel experimentation. In Magotake’s eyes, however, they needed a reason to create the Bureau. Portraying Rainbow Knight as a villain would necessitate the need to not only protect superhumans, but also control and manage them. Has the Bureau done a lot of good for superhumans? Possibly. Do their good deeds redeem them for tarnishing Rainbow Knight’s legacy? That’s a harder question to answer. If, like Jiro currently believes, you think the Bureau is just using superhumans for the benefit of the state, then what they did to Rainbow Knight was unconscionable. But it’s not so clear to me that the Bureau are bad guys.
Nevertheless, lies and propaganda abound in Concrete Revolutio. It is as if social order depends upon lies:
“There’s nothing new in this. This is an old conservative wisdom asserted long ago by philosophers from Plato especially, and then Immanuel Kant, Edmond Burke, and so on and so on. The idea that the truth is too strong, that a politician should be a cynicist, who although he knows what is true, tells to ordinary people what Plato called a noble fable, a lie.” — The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology
There’s a crucial scene following the destruction of the US “superhumanic” submarine Antares. Mitsuya meets with a crowd of reporters, and assures them that they will apprehend Claude for his illegal actions. One reporter counters, however, that Claude succeeded in exposing America’s war crimes. Mitsuya deftly deflects the attack: if the US is guilty, then Japan is also guilty for supporting them. The scene ends there, but we can easily imagine what happens next. It is one thing to lose faith in America, a foreign ally that you never wanted in your backyard to begin with. It is another thing entirely to lose faith in your own nation. With student protests already sowing discord across Japan, it is reasonable to think that many adults are wary of inflaming public opinion even more. As such, we accept the noble fable so that we may preserve our social order.
Bones has a history of tackling this topic in other series. The most notable example I can think of is Un-Go. In that show, truth does not triumph. Seeing as how Concrete Revolutio’s second season is almost over, it’s hard to see how our heroes will expose not only Teito Advertisement, but also the corrupt government as well. After all, numerous truths have already been laid bare, but it seems to only inflame the youth. Do the adults in this universe even care?
“It’s simple. All the students were born after the war. So they’ve grown up listening to their parents. Like, no more wars or fascism.”
“I see. Adults forget about it easily.” — Episode 13
“Our parents fought a war for the justice of this country. And they lost. It was because it didn’t exist. They all fought believing they are justice. All that is over with. Hitoyoshi Jiro, you’re outdated.” — Episode 15
So is all hope lost? What can mere individuals, as powerful as they are, do against both the state and the media? What recourse do we have when even sustained protests have failed to yield the intended results, and in all honesty, have only made things worse?
I am Claude!
I’m struck by how the students all donned Claude’s helmet during the Shinjuku protest, a powerful moment very reminiscent of Spartacus:
“[A pirate] asks [Spartacus] whether he is aware that his rebellion is doomed. Will he and his men continue to fight to the end, even in the face of inevitable defeat? Spartacus replies that the slaves’ struggle is not simply to improve their condition, but a principled rebellion in the name of freedom; so that even if they are all slaughtered, their insurrection will not have been in vain.” — Hope Without Optimism
It’s hard to believe this when things appear to be even worse than ever before. As I’ve mentioned above, in the second season, superhumans are being persecuted more than ever before. Both the government and Teito Advertisement appear to be in more control than ever before. Freedoms are being trampled upon, and with just five episodes to go, it’s hard to imagine how Jiro can substantively right this ship. Nevertheless…
“It depends on us, on our will. In revolutionary upheavals, some energy or rather some utopian dreams take place, they explode, and even if the actual result of a social upheaval is just a commercialized everyday life, this excess of energy, what gets lost in the result, persists not in reality, but as a dream haunting us, waiting to be redeemed. In this sense, whenever we are engaged in radical emancipatory politics, we should never forget as Walter Benjamin put it almost a century ago that every revolution, if it is an authentic revolution, is not only directed towards the futures, but it redeems also the past failed revolutions. All the ghosts as it were, the living dead of the past revolution, which are roaming around, unsatisfied, will finally find their home in the new freedom. I may be freezing to death, but you’ll never get rid of me. All the ice in the world cannot kill a true idea.” — The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology
I’m curious to see whether or not Jiro will redeem the ghosts of the past, especially the failure at Shinjuku. Furthermore, every step of the way, our heroes have managed to undermine Teito Advertisement if only slightly. With just a handful of episodes left, however, it’s nigh time for Concrete Revolutio to make a definitive statement on whether it merely has a diagnosis for society’s need to commodify everything, or if it has a prognosis to the problem as well.
What is Claude’s purpose in the narrative? We know, of course, what he represents at the most literal level. By endearing himself to the youth, and exposing the crimes of both the Japanese and the American states, he will become a hero to the people. Claude will achieve his vengeance, but at the same time, Teito Advertisement stands to profit greatly from his image. What’s interesting, however, Claude is one of the few actual vigilantes in a story full of superheroes. What makes Concrete Revolutio fascinating for me is that it is very similar to Watchmen in its exploration of the superhero concept. It demands us to imagine a world filled with superhumans, ghosts, yokai, aliens, robots, so on and so forth. But it also demands us to imagine how these various beings might coexist in a world full of competing, warring nations. Would the superhumans create their own justice? Or would they obey the rule of law? The latter is our answer. For all their powers, superhumans are not elevated above nations. Rather, they become yet another tool of war. Over and over again, we see the military exploitation of superhumans in the world of Concrete Revolutio. Superhumans are allowed to exist, but only if they obey. They are allowed to exist as long as they don’t become too dangerous (see: Grosse Augen). Essentially, our heroes are physically superhuman, but they are symbolically all too human.
Claude, a victim of inhuman experimentation, seeks justice at all costs even if it means he has to break the law. He exposes the US military’s exploitation of superhumans, but he has to destroy an entire submarine to do so and thus potentially ignite a war. He delivers justice to those who had experimented on superhumans, but at the same time, he commits brutal murder. Claude exposes the truth, but in doing so, he incites a violent riot. Essentially, Claude is Jiro’s antithesis. In Jiro’s heart, he, too, wants to protect superhumans, but he is constrained by the law. Jiro’s not blind. He has seen the atrocities of the state first hand. He knows the Bureau will perpetuate a lie for the greater good. He himself has been ordered to eliminate superhumans just because they are deemed too dangerous by the state. But as long as he remains a member of the Bureau, he cannot truly act in accordance with his own principles. Doing so would disrupt his social order. He would lose faith in not only the Bureau but his own father as well. As a result, Claude has to force the truth upon Jiro. He contrives a situation in which Jiro would learn the truth behind Rainbow Knight’s death. In order to ultimately free himself and thus attack the true enemy, Jiro must first necessarily fight himself. After all, before you can even do anything, you must free yourself from that which enslaves you. So on a metaphysical level, Claude represents Jiro’s double.
As Zizek would say, however, “the double embodies myself, but without the castrated dimension of myself.” Claude isn’t afraid to be a vigilante. Claude isn’t afraid to declare that he is seeking justice. On the other hand, recall the eighth episode of the first season. Jiro confesses to Daitetsu that he can’t tell right from wrong. The best he can do is hope to be a hero. So what changed between then and the last episode of the first season? It is the conflict between not only Jiro and Claude, but a subtler one between Jiro and Kikko. I thus suggest that there is more to Jiro’s hope than he lets on. Emi promises to save Kikko, but she also warns our hero to stay away from the witch: “You try to be who she desires when you’re with her. As if you could save all superhumans.” At the simplest level, Jiro respects and admires Rainbow Knight. As a result, he wants to be as heroic as Rainbow Knight. But Emi’s words here reveal a stark truth about the nature of our fantasies and desires. It is not simply that I get what I desire, but rather that I imagine myself as being desired by others. Jiro admires Rainbow Knight, so his hope is not simply that he becomes Rainbow Knight. It’s not simply that he wants to embody Rainbow Knight’s virtues. Rather, he wants to be desired by Kikko not in the romantic sense, but in the sense that she sees him as her Rainbow Knight.
We thus add an extra layer of complexity to our notion of identity. As the old refrain goes, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, talks like a duck, then by golly, it is a duck. Concrete Revolutio goes even further, and stipulates an additional constraint. For the Symbolic, it is not enough to look and act like a duck. Others must desire you as a duck. This is somewhat confusing with something as simple as a duck, so let’s now apply the idea to Concrete Revolutio: what good is a superhero if no one actually needs one? What good is Rainbow Knight if he’s not actually wanted (we learn later, of course, that he actually has no superpowers)? It is not enough to be strong. It is not enough to believe in freedom, peace and justice. Rather, it is critical to our identity that we are also desired.
Love is Mortifying
I want to touch on Kikko’s love for Jiro before I wrap up this post. Why does she align herself with Claude? Quite literally, Jiro disappoints her, and Claude doesn’t: “Jiro said what I’d wanted him to say.” But even now, she refers to Claude as Jiro. Is she deluded? Has she fooled herself into believing that Jiro is truly her masked hero? Clearly, she does not love Claude. After all, Claude is just telling her what she wants to hear. She does not really know the true Claude, a.k.a. Jin. At the same time, however, she does not truly love Jiro for who he is.
“All too often, when we love somebody, we don’t accept him or her as what the person effectively is. We accept him or her insofar as this person fits the coordinates of our fantasy. We misidentify — wrongly identify him or her — which is why, when we discover that we were wrong, love can quickly turn into violence. There is nothing more dangerous, more lethal for the loved person than to be loved, as it were, for not what he or she is, but for fitting the ideal. In this case, love is always mortifying love.” — The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema
Kikko is thus in love with Ideal Jiro, and not Real Jiro. But at the moment, there is no Ideal Jiro. Ideal Jiro only exists within her fantasy. When Real Jiro’s actions threatened to destroy that fantasy, she preserves it by imposing upon Jin, i.e. Fake Jiro. Real Jiro has his own doubts and weaknesses. He has a beast inside of him that he cannot control. He wants to protect superhumans, but he is not actually free to do so. Needless to say, he falls woefully short of Ideal Jiro. As such, Kikko’s love turns to violence. She cannot accept the reality of the situation, so she will preserve the fantasy even if it means she has to fight Real Jiro.
Desire for Desire Itself
“A desire is never simply the desire for a certain thing. It’s always also a desire for desire itself; a desire to continue to desire. Perhaps the ultimate quarrel of a desire is to be fully filled in, met so that I desire no longer. The ultimate melancholy experience is the experience of the loss of desire itself.” — The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology
Of course, Jiro defeats his double, and in doing so, he also chooses to become Kikko’s Ideal Jiro. Unfortunately, this renders him an enemy of the state, but perhaps this is what she ultimately desires. In the eighteenth episode, Jiro questions Kikko for continuing to side with the Bureau. Of the remaining members, she’s the one least likely to agree with the Bureau’s ideals. At first, Kikko tells him she can protect superhumans by staying with Jaguar and company, but she lacks conviction in her words. Rather, by being enemies, Kikko believes that this is the only way she can continue to see Jiro.
But why not just leave the Bureau and follow Jiro? Supposedly, he promised Emi to avoid Kikko, but that’s not really all that important. Certainly, the guy wouldn’t turn down a powerful ally just because he made a promise to Emi. I suggest, therefore, that since Jiro is now her enemy, Kikko literally has to pursue him. She has to chase after her Ideal Jiro. In other words, her desire, which has until now only existed in her mind, now literally manifests itself upon the real world. And as long as he is an enemy, the desire will never die. She can continue chasing her fantasy unimpeded.
There’s a certain level of ironic detachment in Concrete Revolutio. For all the war crimes, the suppression of human and superhuman rights, the violence, the deaths of our allies, so on and so on, the story never wallows in self-pity. It is perhaps the most superhuman thing about the anime. Case in point, Jiro is now not only a fugitive, but his social order has been shattered. He has lost faith in not only country, but his own father as well. He is removed from the comforts of his own home, and displaced from his family and friends. Nevertheless, Jiro never pauses to cry or give us those familiar scenes of anguished wallowing. Rather, he fights on because he is superhuman. He will flout society’s laws because he is superhuman. In that sense, you might say he almost resembles the idea of Nietzsche’s Ubermensch.
Anyways, starting this Friday, I’ll just blog the remaining episodes one-by-one, and hopefully, I can give it the same treatment as, say, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress.